By Lynda Gratton
Recently in an interview with the BBC’s Peter Day, I was asked about the future and replied that I expected gender parity within the next decade. Peter simply looked at me and said “But that’s what you said when I interviewed you 20 years ago and it still has not happened.”
Of course he is right and at Davos this week I expect that, as in past years, there will be only a small proportion of women. I’m publically optimistic, but privately pessimistic about achieving a gender balance in the next couple of decades. There are four key reasons why Davos 2024 will probably look exactly like Davos 2014.
Firstly, while societal norms move fast (think about the speed with which attitudes to gay marriage or divorce have changed), corporate practices change at a glacial pace. For example, the way corporations select, promote, appraise people has hardly changed in the last 20 years. Since many of these practices were designed for people who had child care at home (ie a wife), who worked in an office (rather than at home), and who could work standard hours (rather than flexibly) they have proven to be barriers to anyone (often women) who want to work in a different way. And moreover, these are barriers that appear to be resolutely impervious to changing circumstances.
It takes a wise and courageous CEO to actively promote women into business orientated senior executive roles. Some of course do but many do not. Without this push it’s almost impossible to achieve gender parity. Research has shown that more often CEOs promote one woman to the senior team and then stand back and think the job is done. Or alternatively they support a women’s network, a process that we know makes little difference to promotion prospects. We need CEOs who realise these token efforts aren’t enough before we will see any big change.
Like many, I believe that gender parity will only be achieved when men are willing to take as much responsibility for raising a family as women do. Of course there are families where there is already a balance, but this is not the norm. Current working practices implicitly assume that the worker is supported by someone who can stand in for them with regard to family responsibilities, this needs to be true at home.
Finally, and most depressingly, the simple truth is that there are jobs that lead to the top – jobs that require significant management of large numbers of people, jobs that have a heavy dose of finance, jobs that involve working in multiple locations. These are typically not the jobs that women apply for, or are selected into. As a consequence many women are already out of the promotion ladder within a decade of joining the workforce.
I hope I am proved wrong. How marvellous it would be to see equal numbers of men and women at Davos in 2024 but I’m not holding my breath.
As 2013 comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about everything that has happened here at Hot Spots Movement, and I thought it seemed right to make my final blog post of the year a round-up of our highlights.
2013 was the year of the FoWlab Jam, with more and more companies realising the value of tapping into the wisdom of their crowd. We’re also increasingly seeing that it’s a very powerful change management tool. We’ve really enjoyed honing and perfecting our processes and platform, too, and taking the jam experience from strength to strength. Recently one user commented that it would be great to have ‘a permanent jam” and we say: “Bring it on!”
It’s been a great year for Lynda, too – her book The Shift experienced phenomenal success in Japan this year , which has been very exciting, and we were all very proud when she won HR Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement award in October. This year also saw Lynda ranked once again in the top 15 of the Thinkers 50.
2013 also saw The Future of Work Research Consortium enter its fifth year, focusing on the key themes of New Ways of Working, Engagement 2.0 and Resilience. As well as contributions from some of the most innovative companies we know – including Knack, ODesk, Holition and Tycoon Systems – we’re collaborating with Central St Martins on a multimedia project around the engagement theme. We were also really pleased to welcome a number of members from Japan and China, joining us for the first time. Our Inclusion and Diversity Research consortium went right to the heart of key issues such as the ‘root causes’ of I & D programmes not having delivered on their promises, and in true Hot Spots Movement style, it brought about some surprising insights.
Collaboration emerged as a major theme for us this year. We’ve come to realise that in today’s super-connected world, collaboration is part of the fabric of everything we do – and yet it’s harder than ever with issues such as diversity and virtualisation are making it increasingly challenging. It’s such an important topic for everyone we speak to that we’re keen to explore it further by making it the subject of a brand new consortium – contact me if you’d like to know more. With all this activity, it’s no surprise that we expanded our team in 2013, with Emma, Kyle and Sarah all joining Hot Spots since the start of the year, and adding their signature styles to our activities.
We’ll be taking a short break over the end of year holidays, but next year promises to be just as action-packed. We’re kicking the year off with the final Inclusion and Diversity masterclass, FoW will be taking a closer look at Engagement 2.0 and Resilience, and we’ll be calling participants together for a new Collaboration consortium. So, all that’s left to say is all the best for Happy New Year in 2014!
by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work
Thanks to Twitter, I came across this blog by Microsoft HR Director Theresa McHenry for HR Magazine. McHenry’s main thrust is to remind us of the big changes taking place in business, society and our day-to-day working lives. However, at the same time, her post highlights the confusing advice we all receive around flexibility in the workplace. She starts off telling the reader to: “encourage employees to work flexibly” and then, a few lines down, reminds them to “where possible, reintroduce boundaries… and encourage colleagues to switch off in the evenings and weekends.” So, which one is it? If we are to create truly flexible organisations whereby work is no longer a place we go, but a thing we do, perhaps we need to wave goodbye to the idea of a Monday-Friday working week.
Flexibility requires us to look beyond the false dichotomy of “work” and “life”. Rather than perpetuating the narrative of achieving “balance” between the two, we must be bolder and aspire to the harmonious integration of all parts of our lives. This aspiration will be particularly important for the future of work as people embrace portfolio careers, working for many organisations and individuals at the same time. Preserving the traditional work schedules in this context will be increasingly challenging and, likely, unappealing.
At the Future of Work Research Consortium, we collaborate with some of the world’s leading organisations to find new solutions to long-standing challenges, and gain surprising insights into issues such as flexible working by taking deeper look. To find out more about how your organsation can get involved, contact email@example.com.
- Flexible Working Shown To Be A Prerequisite For Productivity: Give A Little, Gain A Lot (modernghana.com)
- Skirting the Issue: Flexible working shouldn’t equal the Don’t Promote list (telegraph.co.uk)
- How Flexible Working Can Help a Business Attract The Best Staff (onsmb.com)
- Flexible working good for business (gulfnews.com)
- Why Leaders Need To See Flexible Working As A Strategy For Success Rather Than A Perk For Some Employees (forbes.com)
- Why Flexible Work Arrangements are the New Black (projecteve.com)
An amusing story doing the rounds this week concerns the singer R Kelly who has found himself having to deny claims that he outsourced a personal appearance in Louisiana to an impersonator, leaving thousands of fans up in arms.
This might be an extreme anecdote, but it does highlight the still-relevant question of which tasks are appropriate to outsource. While most might agree that performances and personal appearances are probably best not outsourced, there are a whole range of other ‘personal’ tasks which fall into this area of debate. An acquaintance of mine regularly makes money by picking up the slack for tired, sick or – in one or two cases – nonexistent bloggers and yet another celebrity, actor Danny Dyer has recently complained about being vehemently criticised for misogynistic content in a column he claims he never wrote. These tasks tend to be grey areas – many people and organisations outsource them – but the flip side is that as soon as audiences discover what they see as a deception, they feel cheated.
In a more corporate context, we’ve been reading about an employee who outsourced his coding job in China, paying them 20% of his salary for work which exceeded his employer’s expectations. When discovered, however, he was dismissed for breach of contract. The likes of commentator Tim Ferris would describe this individual as pioneering a great new way of working, but ultimately his bosses felt duped. Again, it’s an interesting grey area and, alongside the issue of what to outsource, raises the question of who should do the outsourcing.
These questions are just another example of the complexity engendered by our increasingly connected world where technology and connectivity are rapidly outstripping our ability to change the way we think about ways of working. The good news is that where technology goes, attitudes are bound to follow. So who knows, by 2030, outsourced concerts might be all the rage.
- Top Outsourcing Disadvantages (ian6steyn.wordpress.com)
- Outsourcing – the alternative to hiring people (robertwellsportfolio.wordpress.com)
- Why Outsourcing for Busbars Could Make Sense For You (hvwooding.wordpress.com)
by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work
The Hot Spots Team was at the Thinkers 50 Event earlier this week, where Professor Lynda Gratton was ranked #14 on the list of top management thinkers.
Lynda also participated in a panel debate at the event alongside Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School, author Tammy Erickson and Stew Friedman from Wharton School of Business. During the debate, Lynda highlighted the fact that although longer life expectancy is one of the most important issues organisations will face in future, few are preparing for it:
“Longevity will be one of the most important issues we face. It will affect everyone and organisations are extremely ill-prepared.”
The event also included an awards ceremony where award-winner Clayton Christensen delivered a moving acceptance speech in which he reminded business professionals and academics alike of the value of time for balance and reflection in our working lives and the unrivalled importance of deep and meaningful relationships with family and friends to provide the support for creativity and success in our careers.
- The 15 Most Influential Thinkers In Business (businessinsider.com)
- The World’s Most Influential Business Thinkers 2013 (forbes.com)
- Canada among top in list of world business thinkers (theglobeandmail.com)
- World’s most influential management thinkers (venitism.blogspot.com)
- Peter Drucker Forum 2013: “The Top Mangement Perspective: Is Complexity on the Agenda?” (globaleduc.wordpress.com)